February 7, 2019 is a date that will live in joy. Lt. Governor Mike Cooney joined with Humanities Montana’s board and staff and many family and friends in honoring five extraordinary Montanans for their contributions to public humanities in our beautiful state: Stephenie Ambrose Tubbs, Ellen Crain, Tami Haaland, Thomas McGuane, and Elizabeth McNamer. An evening banquet hosted by William Marcus and featuring a funny, moving keynote address by Bill Pullman celebrated the achievements of these gifted citizens. Special thanks to Mike Jetty for offering honor songs at both the ceremony and banquet.
Bill Pullman, 2019 Public Humanities Award recipient
Bill Pullman is a film, theater and television actor best known for his roles in Sleepless in Seattle, Independence Day, and While You Were Sleeping. He recently starred in The Ballad of Lefty Brown, a 2017 American western filmed in Bannack State Park that employed hundreds of Montanans. In 2018, he received an honorary doctorate degree in arts from Montana State University, Bozeman where he once held roles as adjunct professor and co-chair of the theater department. A long-time supporter of Montana Shakespeare in the Parks and member of the Artistic Director’s Circle, Mr. Pullman enjoys spending time on his ranch outside of Cardwell, MT that he co-owns with his brother.
William Marcus, host
William Marcus is the retired director of the University of Montana Broadcast Media Center and Montana Public Radio/Montana PBS. William spent over 40 years in public media and has received a number of accolades along the way, including the 2007 Governor’s Humanities Award and the 2015 Cultural Achievement Award from the Missoula Cultural Council. Originally from Wibaux, MT, he continues to be recognized across the state as the voice and host of the "Backroads of Montana" series on Montana PBS. William was the executive producer on Emmy Award winning documentaries including "Evelyn Cameron; Pioneer Woman Photographer," "Sun River Homestead," Bicycle Corps," and "For this and Future Generations." He also produced "Glacier Park’s Night of the Grizzlies," a historical documentary on the 1967 Glacier National Park bear attacks.
Lt. Governor Mike Cooney, presenter of awards
Lt. Governor Mike Cooney was appointed by Governor Steve Bullock in 2016 to become Montana’s 32nd Lieutenant Governor. He has served three terms as Secretary of State, as well as in both houses of the Montana legislative branch. Mike is dedicated to improving Montana’s public school systems by advocating for increased funding and support for educators. He has served on the boards of Helena Area Habitat for Humanity, Montana American Legion Boy and Girls State and the State Capitol Restoration Commission. A Montana native, the Lt. Governor graduated from Butte High School and the University of Montana.
Stephanie Ambrose Tubbs, honoree
Stephenie Ambrose Tubbs is a historian and public humanities presenter who is well-known for her books on the Lewis and Clark Expedition, including Why Sacagawea Deserves the Day Off: Lessons from the Lewis and Clark Trail.
As noted by one of her nominators: "Stephenie was born into a family for whom history was a way of life. She has carried the love of western adventures ever since traveling the Lewis & Clark Trail in 1976 with her dad Stephen Ambrose and family. Stephenie has been a keeper of that flame ever since, keeping the stories alive by sharing her love of this chapter in American history through her own writings."
For Stephenie, "'Once upon a time' describes the effect the humanities have had on my life. I grew up surrounded by stories because my parents shared their unquenchable passion for the arts and traveling on history-based adventures across the country. They impressed us with the importance of place and the stories that connected people to place. It was their love of story that brought me to Montana. It was their love of culture and history that gave me an early appreciation for place and for this place in particular."
"I recently read an article on the need for the humanities in these times. One professor suggested that studying the humanities is a challenge because unlike other fields of study, it does not provide definitive answers; instead, studying the humanities simply raises more questions. In other words, it asks you to stay interested, stay curious, and pay attention, something I try to do every day. The best stories require some effort to understand, to come to terms with, and to ultimately realize that those stories are the ones that are never really concluded. They keep us guessing, as my husband would say."
Ellen Crain, honoree
Ellen Crain is the long-time director of the Butte-Silver Bow Archives who is an expert on Butte’s history and led the campaign to refurbish the current Archives building, a model of historic preservation.
Ellen shares her appreciation for history which provides a better understanding of the past for a better view of the future.
In Ellen’s words: "Nestled within the labyrinthine neighborhoods of the Butte Hills are the dwellings where miners shed the trappings of their work and bound themselves and their families to their neighbors, building our tightly knit community. It was within one of these neighborhoods that my father learned the stories and songs of Ireland which he shared with our family throughout his life. In my work, the song and verse that populated my childhood lend color and humanity to the more academic realities of Irish immigration and the Irish American experience. It has also helped me to recognize the foundational role that music, song, and the ritual of sharing plays in every culture’s American-immigrant story."
As noted by Ellen Baumler from the Montana Historical Society: "Not only is Ellen a tremendous asset to the Butte community, but she is also herself a living archive. There is no subject or detail related to Butte, its history, and its industrial heritage that she does not know or that she cannot immediately put her finger on. Her expertise is not limited to one area, but spans all the disciplines that make Butte unique."
Tami Haaland, honoree
Tami Haaland is Professor and Chair of English at Montana State University Billings, a statewide leader on poetry education who has served as Montana’s poet laureate and volunteers extensively in the Billings area to encourage literary engagement among citizens of all ages and backgrounds.
As shared by colleague Danell Jones: "If we believe that poetry brings us hope in hard times, that is takes the world and makes it new, if we believe that poetry changes lives, if we believe that it is one of those essential human activities that transforms ourselves and our world, then we understand how profound Ms. Haaland’s contribution has been."
Tami shares that she has been transforming herself and her world since she was ten years old. "As children we roamed the coulees leading to the Marias River. By the time we were ten, we would be gone for much of the day in our explorations, and we engaged in extended imaginary play—we were in outer space, we were in the ocean, we were in historic settings on the plains. Usually we were together but sometimes I was alone contemplating the landscape, watching the insects, thinking, always thinking. Somehow I knew at a fairly young age that I wanted to be a poet..."
"Humanities gave my life direction. There was rarely a time when they weren’t important, when stories didn’t fill my world and when the invitation wasn’t open for me to imagine broadly and participate, to ask why and to prowl through the small libraries available to me as a child."
Elizabeth McNamer, honoree
Elizabeth McNamer is a religious studies professor at Rocky Mountain College, scholar, advocate, and author of a newspaper column.
As noted by one of her nominators, Victoria Cech, "[Elizabeth] has devoted her life to the advancement, enjoyment, and communication of the humanities with unwavering passion for outreach for this discipline."
Elizabeth has shared with us why she is so devoted to the humanities: "You are never alone as long as you have a poem in your pocket. I can draw out of my pocket the long soliloquies from which I have gained much wisdom:
The quality of mercy is not strained.
To die to sleep, but in that sleep of death what dreams must come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil must give us pause.
We learnt poetry by heart. Wordsworth’s "And, then my heart with pleasure fills and dances with the daffodils" has brought me much consolation at stressful times. At school, we did not talk about boys but defended our favorite poets! At college in London we lined up to see the latest play, or coffee-crawled to discuss such topics as existentialism.
The Humanities have guided my life, been the center out of which I operated. I have introduced hundreds of students to the Humanities over the years at Rocky Mountain College, taken dozens to Israel to "do" archaeology and learn of our beginnings.
Truly, Robert Hutchinson was right "we cannot choose whether to be human or not but we can choose whether to be the best humans we can be through the study of the Humanities."
Thomas McGuane, honoree
Thomas McGuane is an award-winning, nationally prominent writer who has captured Montana in all its complexity in his novels, short stories, and essays. As noted by a nominator, a Governor’s Humanities Awardee should not only possess great talent but should be an advocate for the advancement of the Humanities in Montana and beyond.
And in Thomas’s own words, he couldn’t demonstrate his advocacy more: "The humanities are a proven approach to understanding ourselves and others, and indeed to all who inhabit the planet down to the plants and animals and the earth itself. The humanities should be a resource for anyone seeking consolation in meaning, whether in the spirituality of religion or the piety acquired through noticing and compassion. There’s no reason to divide us into believers, agnostics and atheists. We are all believers but lacking the reliable paths of the humanities, in progress now for thousands of years, we have little chance of knowing who we are and what we believe in: our gods or our collective destiny."
In the words of Mr. Clifford Edwards: "Tom’s books are—one after another—authentic tributes to the glories of western landscape and way of life. Tom’s gifts for creating award winning literature are certainly no more notable than his actual deeds and actions that show his passion for his beloved Montana."